- The Washington Times - Monday, September 9, 2002

NEW YORK The haunting "missing" posters have been taken down, and the feelings of loss, fear and senselessness have mostly faded.
But almost a year after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, New Yorkers still look up at passing planes, and they still tell strangers their September 11 stories as a way of bonding.
Most New Yorkers agree that the city has largely recovered from the shock of watching a local landmark crumble.
"The mood is pretty much uplifted," said Clyde Frasier Jr., a parks department employee who lost a basketball buddy in the tragedy. "I think people are basically good, and we've got faith, and we're going forward."
New Yorkers are again roaming through lower Manhattan, including Union Square, the park that became the emotional epicenter of a city suddenly cordoned off after 14th Street.
A group of girls sunned themselves on the steps there last weekend, idly watching people go about their business. Soaking up the sun, one lit a cigarette. Another sipped coffee. All of them noticed the muscular boy with tattoos peeking out from under a T-shirt.
A child skateboarded over the site where a year ago hundreds of votive candles and flowers were set in mute remembrance. The green market bustled with vendors, and shoppers talked mostly about dinner, not terrorism.
But the anniversary of the attacks is arriving too soon for most New Yorkers, who seem to feel that it's unnecessary to commemorate a day they cannot forget.
A spate of studies released in the past few weeks offer plenty of proof that the people of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens have suffered mightily since that day when about 3,000 people were killed in attacks in New York and Washington.
But phone polls and statistics don't tell the story that even a year later have shaped the lives of scores of New Yorkers.
Those who were nowhere near the World Trade Center towers recall the acute danger and confusion of the day. Those who were closer have tales of harrowing rescue efforts, uncharacteristic kindness and the kind of heart-pounding fear that few office workers ever experience firsthand.
Min Duong and her roommate went to a Tribecca nightclub on September 10 and had so much fun that they stayed out much later than they had meant to.
The next morning, Miss Duong's roommate, a receptionist in a small financial services firm based in the World Trade Center, overslept.
"The phone starting ringing, like one call after another," recalled Miss Duong, sipping a Guinness at a bar in her Brooklyn neighborhood. "Finally, I got up to answer it, and there was all this smoke on the skyline. We ran up to the roof to see it better and, you know, whoa "
The 23-year-old Banana Republic salesgirl must have told that story hundreds of times in the past year, but she still can't seem to finish the sentence.
She said her roommate moved back to Tampa, while Miss Duong began drinking, smoking and "staying out" more than usual.
She says she's back to normal now, but can't stop replaying a mental video of the collapsing towers.
September 11 is the day the 2001 calendar truly turned over last year, and for many New Yorkers, every memory is now a before or after one.
"You don't just get over an experience like that. I am different. You are. It changes you," said Glenn Prato, who works in the loading dock of a local bookstore.
He describes his social circle as "subdued, stressed out, and more ready to fight" with their loved ones.
Like so many people, Mr. Prato says he's "sickened" by the endless television replays of the falling towers, and the books that have rushed to market. To be reminded of the tragedy every time he walks past the radio or television feels like an assault, he said.
"It's not like we'd forget what happened," he said. "But you can't screen it out, and it's really depressing. I know what happened. Everyone does."
More than half the city's population has endured edginess, nightmares, insomnia or a temporary reliance on alcohol or drugs during the past year, according to the Journal of Urban Health.
Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta have concluded that more needs to be done to address psychological effects of disasters and have urged government agencies to add emotional counseling to disaster-relief efforts.
The city may be splintered over how to rebuild ground zero, and few agree on how best to fight terrorism.
But New Yorkers are united in resenting the media's remembrance blitz and shunning the souvenirs available around the site of the tragedy.
The relentless television specials, radio talk-show debates and magazine spreads celebrating "the heroes who went to work" have been too much to bear, even for people who have not suffered personal losses.
"I guess it's a good thing that we have the media to remind us," said a sarcastic Heemin Kim, 28. "Otherwise maybe we would get back to normal and forget."
She said the Soho bars and clubs she frequents are back to pre-attack gaiety.
In many ways, the city that never sleeps is the city that refuses to roll over.
Almost overnight New York became "America's city." Madison Avenue worked with then-Mayor Rudolph W. Guiliani to promote the city in a feel-good tourism package. For much of the country, seeing a Broadway show or shopping in Soho was alchemized from vacation into an act of patriotism.
A survey released by NYC&Co;, the city's tourism arm, shows that hotel revenues were off this year, but the city retained its appeal as a vacation and convention spot.
Some note that New York's collective ego was reinforced by al Qaeda's attacks: Many of those who live and work here can't imagine the terrorists picking any other city.
As resilient as the city's ubiquitous cockroaches, New Yorkers continue to look on September 11 as something of an opportunity. This is especially true in matters of real estate, a local obsession.
"I was surprised that my apartment sold two weeks after for an incredibly high price," said Ronald Facchinetti, an Italian real estate speculator who lived near Union Square.
"I was hoping to buy another place downtown, cheap, but no. The prices have stayed steady."
Indeed, the World Trade Center looks set to be rebuilt, with unprecedented public input, to serve again as a place of commerce and community. Early plans were rejected, but efforts continue to conceive and develop a complex that balances utility with memory.
The area around ground zero has mostly returned to normal. Office buildings have been repaired and are inhabited again.
The small restaurants and shops that didn't go out of business in those first few months after the attacks are again serving local workers and residents.
Even firemen, the soul of a city in pain, say they're back to business as usual. They even complain that cabbies have started cutting their emergency trucks off in traffic just like before.
But passing strangers still stick their heads into the city's firehouses to say hello.
"You think about what could have happened here after that, and it didn't," said John Napolitano, a Bronx-based urban planner, who noted that society didn't break down.
"I think there is more bonding, more of a sense of community," he said. "This is going to remain a haunting day for all of us for years to come."

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